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Barga prison opens its doors

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inside the womens cell in Barga Prison

The Barga prison opened its doors this afternoon and the authorities were less worried about people escaping and instead more concerned about the huge amount of visitors trying to get inside. It was open day at the Civic Museum with a guided tour of the recently restored prison cells.The Civic Museum is housed in the Palazzo Pretorio, which was built along with the underground prison during the first half of the 14th century. Palazzo Pretorio was the residence of the Podestà, the representative of Florentine power in Barga. The Podestà took part in council decisions, but his main role was to administer Law and Order.

The Podestà lived and worked on the upper floor and what is now the entrance to the museum was then the main hall where trials were carried out and sentences passed.Those found guilty of crimes were either hung or taken below and imprisoned.

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Each cell has a double barred window and double wooden doors reinforced in iron with large bolts. At least two prisoners could be kept in each cell. The prison was also used in the early 1920’s and it is from that period that most of the prisoners scribbles and drawings inside the cells date. Two of the cells were reserved for female prisoners who had to be kept separate from the men.

Recent restoration work inside the prison has revealed another layer of graffiti from a much earlier period. The flaking plaster has been carefully removed in places to finally bring back to the light images with a religious content … images of The Madonna and St. Christopher, the Patron Saint of Barga . Experts are still working on trying to pinpoint a precise date for when the prisoners used the walls as their canvas and diary.

The guided tour is here (in Italiano):
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dannyboy
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dannyboy

Wow! We’ve got to see that. The grafitti will make an interesting counterpoint to the grafitti and street art we just saw in Manhattan. The museum was closed during our previous trips to Barga. Maybe we’ll have better luck this time.